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Second Quarter 2020 reading

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What are you reading to take your mind off everything that's going on this quarter?

Currently I'm reading Adrian Tchaikovsky's novella Made Things, which I'm enjoying so far.

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Herbert Hoover (2009 American Presidents Series)

by William E. Leuchtenburg, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. (Editor), Sean Wilentz (Editor)

No matter how much and sincerely Leuchtenburg tries to say something positive about this thoroughly ugly, cruel, bigoted, racist sob, he can't.  Well, he did have a rotten childhood. He made sure everybody else he could make have a bad childhood and rotten life, he did.

Whereas Woodrow Wilson was a southern racist, Hoover is a western racist.  He created the border patrol -- because of Mexicans, first, and Chinese second.  By now these forces have become a private army called 'ICE'. But the constant murders and cruelties and incarcerations and humiliations and degradations were always the SOP.  And lynchings.  Don't forget that grrrrrrrr8 historically popular entertainment.

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Started listening to Waking Gods, the second book in the Themis trilogy. I really enjoyed the first one, so looking forward to this, although it's starting out a little slow.

I've started my re-read of Caliban's War, but it's going slowly. The botanist is one of my least favorite POV characters in the series, so it makes it a bit of a slog at times. I know it will pick up as it goes, though.

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I'm starting to read Eagles at War by Ben Kane. It's another of the Kindle deals I found and I've never read any of Kane's books before so I'll have to see how it goes. It looks to very much in the mould of Bernard Cornwell's historical fiction which is certainly something I enjoy.

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I just finished Thomas Cromwell by Diarmaid MacCulloch based on an earlier thread recommendation.  I read the Mirror and the Light before that.  Next up is the Intelligent Investor followed by Rick Riordan's Apollo series. 

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19 minutes ago, Gaston de Foix said:

I just finished Thomas Cromwell by Diarmaid MacCulloch based on an earlier thread recommendation.  I read the Mirror and the Light before that.  Next up is the Intelligent Investor followed by Rick Riordan's Apollo series. 

I really appreciated that book. Among the reasons for appreciation is, for those of us who so admire Mantell's novels, it shows just how much she has owned the political and historical facts and context of Thomas Cromwell's live and times. I'm afraid I won't be able to get to Mirror and Light for a long time due to the c-catastrophe, which means contracting income and expanding expenses and no capacity to plan for the future at all, until after a vaccine, which is about a year, year and a half away.

 

 

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Posted (edited)
46 minutes ago, Zorral said:

I really appreciated that book. 

Thanks Zorral.  It was in fact your recommendation that led me to try the biography.  Amongst all the interesting facts in the biography that stood out the one that really tantalized me was the identit(ies) of Cromwell's betrayer(s), particularly those individuals who repeated snippets of his statements that were later denounced as treasonous and/or heretical.  Wriotheseley and Bonner are both excellent candidates, and no doubt both played their role in his downfall.  But the candidate that Mantel suggests (but does not name) is Thomas Wyatt the poet.  The man who stood by Cromwell on the scaffold (which McCulloch celebrated), and whom Cromwell had protected and promoted throughout.  The joy of historical fiction is you can speculate freely and maybe that is what she has done.  

Edited by Gaston de Foix

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6 hours ago, Gaston de Foix said:

The joy of historical fiction is you can speculate freely and maybe that is what she has done.  

And the joy of writing historical fiction too. As HM herself says often -- the places where one doesn't know is where the imagination plays.  Or words to that effect.  :D

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Currently reading The Ancient Lie by Christopher Nuttall. Book 2 of The Unwritten Words trilogy, and follow up to his Bookworm quartet. He self-publishes a lot, but his trad-pubbed works are published by the same small publisher who publish me (Elsewhen Press) so I like to support them. I first heard of them when they published (former?) boarder Eloise (Zoe Sumra)'s sci-fi novels, Sailor to a Moon and The Wages of Sin.

Still planning a Malazan re-read, but toying with first re-reading Memory, Thorn & Sorrow. I've got the follow-up novella and the two Last King of Osten Ard books which I've not yet read. On the other hand, a Malazan re-read would probably kill the best part of six months, taking me closer to the Jan'21 publication of the third book.

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I read the first three House War books on my Michelle West Essalieyan re-read.  The timelines will no longer overlap at this point as I am not including Sacred Hunt in my re-read.  So I took a break and read Kellerman's Museum of Desire and it wasn't very good.  Back to Essalieyan and The Broken Crown.

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Finished The Story Of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg, a heartwarming literary fiction about a lonely elderly widower making new relationships.  Very similar to A Man Called Ove.  It’s well written and a good read, although a bit pollyannish.  There seems to be a new mini genre of geriatric fiction.

I started, but abandoned at 15%, Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley.  This is a grimdark fantasy about a power struggle and clash of civilizations.  So far there seems to an elf-like nomadic tribal race and a splinter group of religious zealots who are seeking to overthrow a feudal medieval nation undergoing an internal power struggle.  It started well enough, albeit a bit dense with new and unfamiliar names and naming structures, and then got bogged down with very emo, self-pitying character arcs and plot arcs.  I’m not sure if this is worth indulging further.  Does it get better?

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Eagles at War was ok. I wouldn't particularly recommend it but it was readable enough.

Next up I'm going to read Dead Moon by Peter Clines. I tend to find that all his books are quite enjoyable escapist reads so I'm looking forward to it.

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On 4/2/2020 at 12:07 PM, Gaston de Foix said:

he joy of historical fiction is you can speculate freely and maybe that is what she has done.  

By the way, if you haven't seen Abigail Nussbaums speculations and review of Mantel, and Mirror and the Light, you might find it interesting:

http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-mirror-and-light-by-hilary-mantel.html

I guess my past week was kinda rough, since she's had that up since March 30 -- I hadn't checked her blog until today.

 

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I have just finished Chernobyl Prayer, by Svetlana Alexievich. I posted previously that I was going to read this alongside The Master and Margarita. It became pretty clear shortly that this wasn't really giving either book its due. 

I don't really want to get into an overview of the book, because every time I try I end up writing loads. I will just say this: I am struck by the profundity of human testimony, and I feel so, so guilty at my ignorance to this before. These stories deserve so much to be read or heard. Not for facts, but because the act of telling and listening to this story is important in itself.

 

But for now, the next book is The Master and Margarita

 

 

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Started and finished the Monarchies of God series by Paul Kearney. I thought it started great but fizzled out, particularly in the last book. Also, this may be a me problem but it was yet another fantasy series where I found the overarching, hidden magical plot to be much less interesting than the initial political plot the author pulls you in with. Overall I preferred the Macht trilogy.

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Dead Moon was good. I really enjoy Peter Clines' books. They tend to have a fairly pulpy premise, this case space zombies, but they're well written and just fun reads.

Next up I'm reading another of the kindle deals I found, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. I was a bit torn on this one. I don't read a lot of YA books so I had a look at the YA thread and there seems to be a bit of mixed opinions about the series with people liking the first book but ultimately a bit disappointed with the last book. Still, if people liked it enough to be looking forward to the last book why not give it a go?

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I do this thing where I find unread fantasy recommendations from trusted sources and then try to read a sample chapter before deciding the most engaging book to read.  Today I will read sample chapters from (with rankings to come):

Gideon the Ninth

The Priory of the Orange Tree

Watchmaker of Filigree Street

The Ruin of Kings

The Poppy War

Seven Blades in Black

Time of Dread

Hawkwood Kings. 

14 hours ago, Zorral said:

By the way, if you haven't seen Abigail Nussbaums speculations and review of Mantel, and Mirror and the Light, you might find it interesting:

http://wrongquestions.blogspot.com/2020/03/the-mirror-and-light-by-hilary-mantel.html

Thanks.  An excellent review.  I disagree with her take: "What's missing from The Mirror and the Light—so noticeably missing that one can only assume this is a deliberate choice—is any conclusion to this belief, either disillusionment or affirmation. Mantel has written Cromwell as a humanist in a world where that belief has no scope."  

In fact (and this is not a spoiler) the work of his lifetime is the narrative of Whig history, so notably parodied in 1066 and All That. The break with Rome, the publication of the Bible, the increase in the power of Parliament, centralization of administration etc. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Gaston de Foix said:

I do this thing where I find unread fantasy recommendations from trusted sources and then try to read a sample chapter before deciding the most engaging book to read.  Today I will read sample chapters from (with rankings to come):

Gideon the Ninth

The Priory of the Orange Tree

Watchmaker of Filigree Street

The Ruin of Kings

The Poppy War

Seven Blades in Black

Time of Dread

Hawkwood Kings. 

Thanks.  An excellent review.  I disagree with her take: "What's missing from The Mirror and the Light—so noticeably missing that one can only assume this is a deliberate choice—is any conclusion to this belief, either disillusionment or affirmation. Mantel has written Cromwell as a humanist in a world where that belief has no scope."  

In fact (and this is not a spoiler) the work of his lifetime is the narrative of Whig history, so notably parodied in 1066 and All That. The break with Rome, the publication of the Bible, the increase in the power of Parliament, centralization of administration etc. 

 

 

She didn't define what she means by the lack of humanism's scope in this late 15th C - early - mid-16th C. In Spain, it's golden years did close down with the death of Castile/Spain's Queen Isabella (Katherine of Aragon was her daughter), as Ferdinand and his successors were not in the least interested in propagating learning and the arts. Money and European power was all he and his Spanish successors cared about -- though ultimately too, through one of their children Spain also holds the position of Holy Roman Emperor.  (Many pardons for 'splaining what you obviously already know!)

Isabella's court was brilliant in learning and the arts, the most brilliant in Europe.  Yet Queen Isabella's Spain was as fixated on religious matters and heresy and infidels (thanks to the loss of Constantinople and the European incursions of the Turks) as any Roman - Protestant divide. Still, Henry VIII, unlike his father, was also deeply interested in arts and learning. Both he and Isabella were possessed by deep religious faith, at least on her part, and belief that God chose him, on his part -- and both, for a variety of reasons, had anxieties about staying on their thrones, though with Henry it was his father, the first Tudor, who was possessed by that, as the old Plantagenet powers still lurked all about his kingdom.

What we see in Europe is the increasing power struggle divide, from England and northern Europe to southern Europe around religion -- which usually, ultimately, shuts down factual inquiry and also a push against the great divides of inequality in wealth and power.  Thus the 17th century makes all of Europe at battleground of religion: power surge, power loss, as we see between the protestants and Catholics in England, from crown to Commonwealth and Restoration, to Glorious Revolution, the momentum to settle the Colonies, by one side or the other.

Humanism's New Learning itself did much to drive the Reformation, which we surely see played out in Henry VIII's court and among the king's counselors, friends and wives.

So, this is why I'm as confused as you are by that statement of hers.

 

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Finished Ysabel by Guy Gavriel Kay while I was still in Tennessee on Friday night. It is different from his others books, and really does read like it was written as a YA novel even though it was never marketed as such. And as some reviews I've read say it doesn't explain a lot of the reasons behind the main fantasy elements in its story. Still the characters were likable and I was fascinated by how he introduced two characters from his first big fantasy trilogy The Fionovar Tapestry into the story. 

Have now begun Strange Devices of the Sun and Moon by Lisa Goldstein.  So far an interesting take on historical fantasy set in Elizabethan England. Christopher Marlowe is one of the characters. 

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